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LOGOS (Gr. logos). A philosophical and theological term and concept that goes back to the Ionian philosopher Heraclitus (c. 500 b.c.), to whom it meant the universal reason permeating the world and finding self-consciousness in the mind of the philosophers. Stoicism adopted the term for a dynamic principle of reason operating in the world and forming a medium of communion between God and man. The latter function becomes prominent in Philo, with whom the Logos is at once the Stoics’ active, intelligent, world-principle, the thought in the divine mind, which was identical with sum-total of Plato’s “Forms” or “Ideas,” and a mediator between God and the matter of his creation. For Philo, as indeed for his predecessors, the Logos is neither personal nor impersonal. It was vaguely equated with God’s utterance (Gen.1.3; Ps.33.9), his “word” in such passages as Ps.107.20; Ps.147.15, Ps.147.18, and such expressions as “the angel of the covenant,” and with “wisdom” in such personifications as those of Prov.8.1-Prov.8.36 and Wisdom of Solomon 9:15ff. It is possible that the Qumran community fused the same Hebrew and Hellenistic concepts into their doctrine of the spirit of truth, which, like the spirit of error, was a creature of God. The relevant passages in the “Rule of the Community” document do not admit of dogmatism.

In the New Testament the Logos appears principally in John’s writings (John.1.1ff.; 1John.1.1; Rev.19.13), though references from Paul’s writings and the Epistle to the Hebrews might be added. Logos is imperfectly translated “Word,” and it is not easy to comprehend the full context of the idea in its Judeo-Hellenistic context. There can be no doubt that both John and Paul saw value in expressing Christian thought in the terminology of the day, a point appreciated by the early church fathers in their sometimes perilous development of the Logos doctrine. Significantly enough, John wrote his prologues at the end of the first century when the first signs of Gnostic error were discernible. In John’s use of “Logos” we must certainly see that blending of Judaic and Hellenistic concepts that appeared in Philo’s use of the term. From its Greek ancestry, etymological and philosophical, the Johannine word would contain not only the notion of reason, but also the active expression of reason on a divine and perfect plane. Hence the conception of the visible universe as an expression of God’s reason, that reason being the force and agency of creation, the Word who said: “Let there be....” But John becomes entirely original and creative when he boldly equates this reason with God himself, and simultaneously sees its incarnation in Christ. It seems likely that John, in this bold thought, brought to firmer expression in the terminology of Hellenistic thought a concept already expressed in 1Cor.8.6, Col.1.15-Col.1.17, and Heb.1.2-Heb.1.3. In view of the Colossian heresy of angelic mediatorship the last context is significant.——EMB

The term is used in the NT and in Christian doctrine for Jesus Christ. It derives mainly from the prologue of the gospel of John. Logos meant both “word” and the thought or reason expressed in a word. Heraclitus (c. 500 b.c.) conceived it pantheistically as the universal reason penetrating everything, and the Stoics took it over and popularized it as the rational principle inhabiting and governing the universe. Under the influence of Plato's teaching on the eternal forms the idea of the Logos as an immanent power underwent development. It was thought of by Philo as an intermediary agent between God and the world. At the same time, other Jewish thinkers, working from the dynamic conception of the Word in Hebrew thought (Isa. 55:11; Ps. 33:6) and using Greek ideas, aimed at a very similar doctrine of the divine Wisdom (Prov. 8:22-31). Later Jews, writing in Greek, combined the two conceptions, using by preference the term “Logos” (Wisdom of Sol. 9:1f.), which is now personified (18:15). Philo took the significant step of making the Logos the intermediary between the transcendent God and the created order.

In the NT Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), “the firstborn over all creation,” in whom “all things were created” (Col. 1:15ff.). John takes the further step of identifying Christ with the Logos of contemporary Greek and Jewish thought (1:1, 14). The identification is telling; but the fact that the term logos is not again used in the fourth gospel in the same sense raises questions as to its importance for the evangelist's doctrine of Christ. These questions are confirmed if the prologue of the gospel was not originally an integral part of the gospel and, moreover, if the evangelist used a hymn which may not have come originally from Christian sources. The extent to which the author of the fourth gospel was indebted to Greek and biblical thought is debated and raises questions which go far beyond his use of logos. In no doubt is the Christian stamp which John gives the term. Augustine, commenting on the statement that the Word was made flesh, declared, “This I never read of the Logos in the Neoplatonists” (Confessions 6:9).

See C.H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (1958), pp. 263-85.

LOGOS lŏg’ ŏs (λόγος, G3364; word, thought, reason, speech, declaration, logic, revelation, reckoning, expression of thought). This term has no equivalent in Lat., Ger. or Eng. It is tr. by the Lat. terms verbum, sermo and ratio, by the French parole and by the Ger. Wort, Sinn, and Kraft. The terms legõ and logos are common in the LXX and NT. In the Johannine writings the term occasionally has a Christological significance (e.g., John 1:1-3, 14; 1 John 1:1; Rev 19:13), a fact which makes it esp. intriguing.


In Greek literature

Classical writers.

The term logos appears in Homer (Iliad, 15, 393) and Hesiod only in a non-technical sense. Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 500 b.c.) was among the first to use the term in a distinctive philosophical sense. To Heraclitus the lógos is the continuum in an everchanging cycle of renewal, the divine soul of the world. In a universe of flux the one stable factor is the lógos. In his thought, “all human laws are nourished by the divine law. Though this Word (Logos)—this fundamental law—existeth from all time, yet mankind are unaware of it” (“Fragment” 94). There was in Heraclitus no concept of a transcendent God; only an immanent “law” or “reason” in the world, the “logos.” But, in common with the Heb. prophets, he recognized that the world is a unity, that basic to all human institutions is a spiritual, all-pervasive principle with which man must deal, i.e., the lógos.

Anaxagoras placed greater stress on the Creator’s transcendence and thought of the lógos as intermediary between God and creation, the regulative principle in the cosmos, thus anticipating the Stoics. Plato made little direct contribution to the concept of the lógos, but his doctrine of Ideas lent itself to later refinements of the doctrine. Platonic dualism, with its contrast between the ideal and the expression of the idea in a phenomenal world, has a parallel with thought and its verbalization which is the central idea in lógos. Also the world-soul which the Creator imparted to the cosmos (Timaeus 34) reappears in Jewish and Christian lits. of the early centuries (Wisd Sol; Ep Diognetus). Aristotle reacted against Plato’s dualism by stressing a monistic view of the universe, the transcendence of God and His non-involvement in human affairs.

The Stoics.

The Stoics, led by Zeno (c. 300 b.c.) revived the tenets of Heraclitus, esp. the idea that the basic element in the cosmos is fire, or “seminal reason” (lógos spermátikos), manifest in all of nature. They believed that Heraclitus and Socrates were “saved” because they adhered to this lógos. Later Stoics distinguished between germinal lógos, the source of ideas and lógos prophárikos, or ideas expressed, but agreed that the two are essentially one. Men, they said, participate in each other because of common participation in the common lógos. In the words of a later thinker, the “Logos is the soul of the world, it pervades the universe as honey fills the honey comb, and links time with eternity” (Cicero, De Natura Deorum, II. 20). The early Stoics believed the lógos to be an all-permeating fiery vapor, materialistic in nature. The later Stoics often resorted to allegorization, such as interpreting Hermes, messenger of the gods, as the lógos. But their lógos was a pantheistic World-soul, a materialistic abstraction rather than a hypostasis, hence had little in common with the Biblical usage of the term. It did, however, help prepare the world for Christianity by its emphasis on the importance of the individual and the basic unity of all mankind, a variety in unity. It helped thoughtful persons to distinguish habitually between thought and the expression of thought in words. Most of all it helped prepare the Gr. world for the acceptance of a mediator between God and man. It also provided Christians with a means of explaining divine revelation via a unique Son.

Hebrew authors

The OT.

The kinship between word and spirit is indicated in Psalm 33:6 where the parallelism states, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath (ruach) of his mouth,” a passage prized by early defenders of Trinitarian doctrine. Similar, in its linking of word and Spirit is, “When thou takest away their breath, they die....When thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the ground” (Ps 104:29, 30). The kinship between deed, word, breath and spirit is obvious; the deed is the result of the word, the spoken word requires breath and the same Heb. term lies behind both “breath” and “Spirit.” God’s word in Heb. thought was more than an expression of His thought; it was also an expression of His will in nature, in human life and in history.

Pre-eminently, however, the “word of God” in the OT is a means of divine revelation. This is particularly true of the prophetic lit. Prior to the kingdom period divine revelation was regarded as conveyed by dreams, by sacred lot (interpreted by the priest) and by the lawgiver. In the postexilic period apocalyptic vision was a common mode of revelation. In the kingdom period the more prevalent mode of divine self-disclosure was by “the word of the Lord” (Amos 7:16).

God “sent a word against Jacob” (Isa 9:8) as a means of divine revelation through His prophets. The initiation of this phase of divine revelation was via Samuel, so much so that he was recognized as Yahweh’s official spokesman (1 Sam 3:1-4:1). For the major prophets this word or audition was almost irresistible; in the words of Jeremiah, it was “as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in” (Jer 20:9; cf. Ezek 33:7; Amos 3:8; Mic 3:8). The audition (“word of God”) was often equated with “vision” (cf. 1 Sam 3:1; Isa 1:1).

In the major prophets the “Word of God” was the oracular disclosure of the mind of Yahweh. Later God’s word was the equivalent of God’s total revelation, the Torah. It was a self-contained body of instruction, a way of life. “Thy word,” said the psalmist, “is a lamp to my feet” (Ps 119:105); by it the young man would be able to “keep his way pure” (119:9). God’s word in such contexts is the equivalent of God’s law; it is parallel with and yet in contrast to the lógos of John 1:17.

Wisdom literature.

Closely related to the concept of the word is that of wisdom (חָכְמָה, H2683). Wisdom is a form of divine revelation, often elusive (Job 28) and always invaluable. It comes, not as a result of human achievement, but always as a gratuitous self-disclosure of God (Job 28:12-28); it is a gift of grace (Dan 2:21). It was given to craftsmen as manual skill for fabricating the Tabernacle (Exod 36:1), to Joshua was given “the spirit of wisdom” as essential to leadership (Deut 34:9).

Best representative of this gift was Solomon who was commended and rewarded because of his discriminating preference for wisdom as a means of service. This laid the foundation for the third most important portion of the OT, the Wisdom Lit. The Sopherim and wise men came to be the most highly esteemed type of leadership in the nation. While Solomon was the most famous of them, the pioneer seems to have been Ahithophel, a man whose judgment was considered on a par with the disclosures of prophet or priest (2 Sam 16:23). In the Book of Proverbs wisdom is the cardinal virtue the possession of which assures God’s favor.

By some writers the rabbinic concept of the word or memra is viewed as the equivalent of the lógos. The memra was spoken of as the Intercessor before God and as the Helper of the righteous by rabbis Jonathan and Onkelos. However, as G. F. Moore points out (HTR, xv) “memra” was not the equivalent of the “word”; it is rather a buffer word, not a mediating idea or person. It seems unlikely, therefore, that this term was any influence on Johannine usage of the term lógos.

Philo of Alexandria.

The Hebraic and Hellenic meanings of lógos converged in Philo the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria at the time of Christ. In Philo’s voluminous writings about the lógos may be traced the Gr. emphasis on the lógos as reason and the Heb. emphasis on the lógos as communication, by word and deed. Philo fused the all-pervasive energy stressed by Heraclitus, the metaphysical dualism of Plato, the transcendental monism of Aristotle and the individualism characteristic of the Stoics. For him the lógos was common to these traditions and also to the OT. Under a great variety of titles this impersonal lógos served an intermediate functionary between the remote God and the material universe. Influenced by the Platonic doctrine of ideas he spoke of the lógos as the realm of idea or pattern, yet his Heb. heritage helped him see the lógos as also the embodiment or expression of the ideal. He speaks of the lógos as God’s “first-born son” (protógonos huíos), as God’s “ambassador” (presbeutēs), as man’s advocate (paráclētos) and as high priest (archiereus). Common to all these various facets of the lógos concept in Philo is the role of the lógos as intermediary between God and the world. This same emphasis on the transcendence of God and the nature of matter as evil reappeared, decades after Philo, in the various Gnostic systems of the 2nd cent. a.d. Philo differentiated between the lógos endiáthetos, ideas in God and reason in man and lógos prophórikos, the ideas projected in speech, as did the Stoics before him. The apparent complexity of the cósmos is therefore unified by the lógos or reason behind the phenomena. Like the Stoics and other Greeks, Philo would have recoiled at the idea of the lógos becoming incarnate; his lógos was a personification, never a person as in John.

In koinē Gr. the term lógos is common in non-literary documents where it normally means “reckoning” (MM). Accountability or responsibility was also conveyed by this term. The lógos concept is not prominent in the DSS.

NT usage

Synoptic gospels and Acts.

Pauline epistles.


Johannine literature

Epistles and Apocalypse.

If the Apocalypse is included in this category the term appears where the Messianic warrior with the “sword” in his mouth is called the lógos of God (Rev 19:13). It appears to be a symbolic presentation of the preaching of the good news, stated in numerous other places, as indicated above.

The First Epistle of John speaks of the “lógos of life,” in language strikingly similar to John 1:1-18. In this context the expression could either refer to the preaching of the good news or to the incarnate Christ; it prob. includes both. The former is consistent with the NT as a whole, the latter is consistent in the Johannine Prologue which it so closely resembles in other respects. The best texts do not include 1 John 5:7—“the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost” (KJV)—but the v. at least reflects the sentiments of many in the ancient church.

The fourth gospel.

The term lógos occurs forty times in this gospel but only in John 1:1-3, 14 is the term explicitly equated with the Christ. With the term lógos, however, is linked “truth” (alētheia)—“thy word is truth” (17:17). Elsewhere Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (14:6). Since “things equal to the same thing are equal to each other,” the conclusion is clear—Jesus is the lógos. This, of course, is consistent with the Prologue, where the identification is explicit and emphatic.

a. The relation of the Logos to the Father. The author goes back of the Genesis account to origins in eternity—“In the beginning was the word.” The word was pros ton theón—in God’s presence, implying movement toward God and yet distinct from God; it expresses perpetual intercommunion or fellowship. He is one with God in essence, yet distinct personally—“the word was God.” The “word” is divine; the article is omitted before theós in this statement, indicating that God is more inclusive than the lógos while the Godhead is not limited to lógos. The relationship to God is as intimate as language can describe it and still retain individual identity. The thought is essentially that of Paul (Col 1:15-20; cf. 1 Cor 15:24); and of the author of Hebrews (1:1-3). This usage marks an advance over the thought of the Pauline corpus and the letter to the Hebrews in that it was successful synthesis of the prophetic doctrine of divine revelation, the later personification of wisdom, and the Alexandrian emphasis on reason and truth. The prologue expresses Christian revelation on a Hebraic background, using contemporary idiom to make it more appealing.

b. The relation of the Logos to the world is that of Co-creator and creation. The relation to the cosmos is not spelled out in the detail one sees in Paul (Col 1:15-20, et al.) but it is embraced in John’s all-inclusive affirmation—“all things came into existence through (dia) his agency” (John 1:3). The following statement reiterated and emphasized this—“no single thing was created without him” (1:3 NEB). Just as the word of God spoke into existence every created thing in the Genesis account so John affirms the same of the Lógos. It is astonishing that the first-generation Christians who had known Jesus of Nazareth “after the flesh” could have become convinced that He was also the One who had caused the universe itself to have come into existence. The difference between Creator and creation is brought out by the contrast in the verbs “being” and “becoming.” “The eternally existing One caused to come into existence in time everything else that exists.”

c. The relation of the Logos to mankind is the main concern of John, as of the other evangelists. “The lógos became flesh,” an idea abhorrent to the Gnostics, as to holders of metaphysical dualism generally. Some hold with R. Bultmann that John’s ideas are borrowed mainly from pagan ideologies, esp. Iranian Gnostic systems, but the evidence is insufficient and the theory is rendered untenable by recent archeological discoveries.

Early Christian literature

At the close of the 1st cent. the lógos doctrine was the antidote to Gnostic dualism and docetic heresies (e.g., 2 John 7). The apologists including Justin, Tatian, Theophilus and Athenagoras sought to demonstrate that orthodoxy was opposed to pagan theosophies and yet at the same time was in agreement with elements of truth in such pagan ideologies as Stoicism, esp. as represented by Epictetus. Justin argued that Christ is the Spermátic Lógos who issued from the Father as divine revelation. Clement of Alexandria emphasized the immanence of the Lógos concept, that Christ was in the world before the historic Incarnation preparing mankind for His Advent. Additional strength was afforded the lógos doctrine by Athanasius during the Trinitarian controversy. However, the Nicene Creed did not include the term and later the Synod of Sirmium (a.d. 451) condemned the doctrine of endiathétos and lógos prophóríkos. The idea still holds its appeal for idealists and certain mystics. In general, the lógos doctrine serves to indicate the power of the Gospel to gather up and transform contemporary concepts which contain elements of truth. A weak and uncertain Gospel would have avoided any use of alien symbols for fear of losing its distinctiveness. In much the same spirit Clement of Alexandria could refer to himself as a “Christian Gnostic.” The genius of the author of the fourth gospel is that he did not disdain the use of a term which promised to extend the appeal of the Truth.


G. Vos, “The Range of the Logos-Name in the Fourth Gospel,” PTR (1913), 557-602; W. R. Inge, “Logos,” HERE, VIII (1914), 134-138; A. Alexander, “Logos,” ISBE, III (1930), 1911-1917; Kittel, ed., “Lego, logos,” TWNT, IV (1933); R. G. Bury, The Fourth Gospel and the Logos Doctrine (1942); K. E. Lee, The Religious Thought of St. John (1950), 74-108; E. C. Hoskyns, The Fourth Gospel (1956), 154ff.; O. Cullmann, “Jesus the Word,” The Christology of the New Testament (1959), 249-269; J. N. Sanders, “Word,” IDB, IV (1962), 868-872.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)



1. Heraclitus

2. Anaxagoras

3. Plato

4. Aristotle

5. Stoics


1. Word as Revelation of God

2. Suggestions of Personal Distinctions in Deity

3. Theophanies

4. Wisdom

5. Targums




1. Pauline Doctrine

2. Doctrine in Hebrews

3. Doctrine in Fourth Gospel

(1) Content of Doctrine

(a) Relation of Logos to God

(b) Relation of Logos to World

(2) Origin of Terminology

(a) Hebrew Source

(b) Hellenic Source

(c) Contrast between Philo and John



The doctrine of the Logos has exerted a decisive and far-reaching influence upon speculative and Christian thought. The word has a long history, and the evolution of the idea it embodies is really the unfolding of man’s conception of God. To comprehend the relation of the Deity to the world has been the aim of all religious philosophy. While widely divergent views as to the Divine manifestation have been conceived, from the dawn of Western speculation, the Greek word logos has been employed with a certain degree of uniformity by a series of thinkers to express and define the nature and mode of God’s revelation.

Logos signifies in classical Greek both "reason" and "word." Though in Biblical Greek the term is mostly employed in the sense of "word," we cannot properly dissociate the two significations. Every word implies a thought. It is impossible to imagine a time when God was without thought. Hence, thought must be eternal as the Deity. The translation "thought" is probably the best equivalent for the Greek term, since it denotes, on the one hand, the faculty of reason, or the thought inwardly conceived in the mind; and, on the other hand, the thought outwardly expressed through the vehicle of language. The two ideas, thought and speech, are indubitably blended in the term logos; and in every employment of the word, in philosophy and Scripture, both notions of thought and its outward expression are intimately connected.

In this article it will be our aim to trace the evolution of the doctrine from its earliest appearance in Greek philosophy through its Hebrew and Alexandrian phases till it attained its richest expression in the writings of the New Testament, and especially in the Fourth Gospel.

The doctrine may be said to have two stages: a Hellenistic and a Hebrew; or, more correctly, a pre-Christian and a Christian. The theory of Philo and of the Alexandrian thinkers generally may be regarded as the connecting link between the Greek and the Christian forms of the doctrine. The Greek or pre-Christian speculation on the subject is marked by the names of Heraclitus, Plato and the Stoics. Philo paves the way for the Christian doctrine of Paul, Hebrews and the Johannine Gospel.

I. Greek Speculation.

The earliest speculations of the Greeks were occupied with the world of Nature, and the first attempts at philosophy take the shape of a search for some unitary principle to explain the diversity of the universe.

1. Heraclitus:

Heraclitus was practically the first who sought to account for the order which existed in a world of change by a law or ruling principle. This profoundest of Greek philosophers saw everything in a condition of flux. Everything is forever passing into something else and has an existence only in relation to this process. We cannot say things are: they come into being and pass away. To account for this state of perpetual becoming, Heraclitus was led to seek out a new and primary element from which all things take their rise. This substance he conceived to be, not water or air as previous thinkers had conjectured, but something more subtle, mysterious and potent--fire. This restless, all-consuming and yet all-transforming activity--now darting upward as a flame, now sinking to an ember and now vanishing as smoke--is for him at once the symbol and essence of life. But it is no arbitrary or lawless element. If there is flux everywhere, all change must take place according to "measure." Reality is an "attunement" of opposites, a tension or harmony of conflicting elements. Heraclitus saw all the mutations of being governed by a rational and unalterable law. This law he calls sometimes "Justice," sometimes "Harmony"; more frequently "Logos" or "Reason," and in two passages at least, "God." Fire, Logos, God are fundamentally the same. It is the eternal energy of the universe pervading all its substance and preserving in unity and harmony the perpetual drift and evolution of phenomenal existence. Though Heraclitus sometimes calls this rational principle God, it is not probable that he attached to it any definite idea of consciousness. The Logos is not above the world or even prior to it. It is in it, its inner pervasive energy sustaining, relating and harmonizing its endless variety.

2. Anaxagoras:

Little was done by the immediate successors of Heraclitus to develop the doctrine of the Logos, and as the distinction between mind and matter became more defined, the term nous superseded that of Logos as the rational force of the world. Anaxagoras was the first thinker who introduced the idea of a supreme intellectual principle which, while independent of the world, governed it. His conception of the nous or "mind" is, however, vague and confused, hardly distinguishable from corporeal matter. By the artificial introduction of a power acting externally upon the world, a dualism, which continued throughout Greek philosophy, was created. At the same time it is to the merit of Anaxagoras that he was the first to perceive some kind of distinction between mind and matter and to suggest a teleological explanation of the universe.

3. Plato:

In Plato the idea of a regulative principle reappears. But though the word is frequently used, it is nous and not Logos which determines his conception of the relation of God and the world. The special doctrine of the Logos does not find definite expression, except perhaps in the Timaeus, where the word is employed as descriptive of the Divine force from which the world has arisen. But if the word does not frequently occur in the dialogues, there is not wanting a basis upon which a Logos-doctrine might be framed; and the conception of archetypal ideas affords a philosophical expression of the relation of God and the world. The idea of a dominating principle of reason was lifted to a higher plane by the distinction which Plato made between the world of sense and the world of thought, to the latter of which God belonged. According to Plato, true reality or absolute being consisted of the "Ideas" which he conceived as thoughts residing in the Divine mind before the creation of the world. To these abstract concepts was ascribed the character of supersensible realities of which in some way the concrete visible things of the world were copies or images. Compared with the "Ideas," the world of things was a world of shadows. This was the aspect of the Platonic doctrine of ideas which, as we shall see, Philo afterward seized upon, because it best fitted in with his general conception of the transcendence of God and His relation to the visible world. Three features of Plato’s view ought to be remembered as having a special significance for our subject:

(1) While God is regarded by Plato as the intelligent power by which the world is formed, matter itself is conceived by him as in some sense eternal and partly intractable.

(2) While in the Philebus Plato employs the expression, "the regal principle of intelligence in the nature of God" nous basilikos en te tou Dios phusei), it is doubtful if reason was endowed with personality or was anything more than an attribute of the Divine mind.

(3) The ideas are merely models or archetypes after which creation is fashioned.

4. Aristotle:

The doctrine of the Logos cannot be said to occupy a distinctive place in the teaching of Aristotle, though the word does occur in a variety of senses (e.g. orthos logos, "right insight," the faculty by which the will is trained to proper action). Aristotle sought to solve the fundamental problem of Greek philosophy as to how behind the changing multiplicity of appearances an abiding Being is to be thought by means of the concept of development. Plato had regarded the "ideas" as the causes of phenomena--causes different from the objects themselves. Aristotle endeavored to overcome the duality of Plato by representing reality as the essence which contains within itself potentially the phenomena, and unfolds into the particular manifestations of the sensible world. This conception has exerted a powerful influence upon subsequent thought, and particularly upon the monotheistic view of the world. At the same time in working it out, the ultimate "prime-mover" of Aristotle was not materially different from the idea of "the Good" of Plato. And inasmuch as God was conceived as pure thought existing apart from the world in eternal blessedness, Aristotle did not succeed in resolving the duality of God and the universe which exercised the Greek mind.

5. Stoics:

It is to the Stoics we must look for the first systematic exposition of the doctrine of the Logos. It is the key to their interpretation of life, both in the realms of Nature and of duty. Interested more in ethical than physical problems, they were compelled to seek general metaphysical basis for a rational moral life. Some unitary idea must be found which will overcome the duality between God and the world and remove the opposition between the sensuous and supersensuous which Plato and Aristotle had failed to reconcile. For this end the Logos-doctrine of Heraclitus seemed to present itself as the most satisfactory solution of the problem. The fundamental thought of the Stoics consequently is that the entire universe forms a single living connected whole and that all particulars are the determinate forms assumed by the primitive power which they conceived as never-resting, all-pervading fire. This eternal activity or Divine world-power which contains within itself the conditions and processes of all things, they call Logos or God. More particularly as the productive power, the Deity is named the logos spermatikos, the Seminal Logos or generative principle of the world. This vital energy not only pervades the universe, but unfolds itself into innumerable logoi spermatikoi or formative forces which energize the manifold phenomena of Nature and life. This subordination of all particulars to the Logos not only constitutes the rational order of the universe but supplies a norm of duty for the regulation of the activities of life. Hence, in the moral sphere "to live according to Nature" is the all-determining law of conduct.

II. Hebrew Anticipation of Doctrine.

So far we have traced the development of the Logos-doctrine in Greek philosophy. We have now to note a parallel movement in Hebrew thought. Though strictly speaking it is incorrect to separate the inner Reason from the outer expression in the term Logos, still in the Hellenistic usage the doctrine was substantially a doctrine of Reason, while in Jewish literature it was more especially the outward expression or word that was emphasized.

1. Word as Revelation of God:

The sources of this conception are to be found in the Old Testament and in the post-canonical literature. The God who is made known in Scripture is regarded as one who actively reveals Himself. He is exhibited therefore as making His will known in and by His spoken utterances. The "Word of God" is presented as the creative principle (Ge 1:3; Ps 33:6); as instrument of judgment (Ho 6:5); as agent of healing (Ps 107:20); and generally as possessor of personal qualities (Isa 55:2; Ps 147:15). Revelation is frequently called the "Word of the Lord," signifying the spoken as distinct from the written word.

2. Suggestions of Personal Distinctions in Deity:

In particular, we may note certain adumbrations of distinction of persons within the Being of God. It is contended that the phrase "Let us make" in Genesis points to a plurality of persons in the God-head. This indefinite language of Genesis is more fully explained by the priestly ritual in Nu (6:23-26) and in the Psalter. In Jer, Ezr and the vision of Isa (6:2-8) the same idea of Divine plurality is implied, showing that the Old Testament presents a doctrine of God far removed from the sterile monotheism of the Koran (compare Liddon, Divinity of our Lord, and Konig).

3. Theophanies:

4. Wisdom:

A further development of the conception of a personal medium of revelation is discernible in the description of Wisdom as given in some of the later books of the Old Testament. The wisdom of Jewish Scripture is more than a human endowment or even an attribute of God, and may be said to attain almost to a personal reflex of the Deity, reminding us of the archetypal ideas of Plato. In Job, wisdom is represented as existent in God and as communicated in its highest form to man. It is the eternal thought in which the Divine Architect ever beholds His future creation (Job 28:23-27). If in Job wisdom is revealed only as underlying the laws of the universe and not as wholly personal, in the Book of Proverbs it is coeternal with Yahweh and assists Him in creation (Pr 8:22-31). It may be doubtful whether this is the language of a real person or only of a poetic personification. But something more than a personified idea may be inferred from the contents of the sapiential books outside the Canon. Sirach represents Wisdom as existing from all eternity with God. In Baruch, and still more in Wisdom, the Sophia is distinctly personal--"the very image of the goodness of God." In this pseudo-Solomonic book, supposed to be the work of an Alexandrian writer before Philo, the influence of Greek thought is traceable. The writer speaks of God’s Word (me’mera’) as His agent in creation and judgment.

5. Targums:

Finally in the Targums, which were popular interpretations or paraphrases of the Old Testament Scripture, there was a tendency to avoid anthropomorphic terms or such expressions as involved a too internal conception of God’s nature and manifestation. Here the three doctrines of the Word, the Angel, and Wisdom are introduced as mediating factors between God and the world. In particular the chasm between the Divine and human is bridged over by the use of such terms as me’mera’ ("word") and shekhinah ("glory"). The me’mera proceeds from God, and is His messenger in Nature and history. But it is significant that though the use of this expression implied the felt need of a Mediator, the Word does not seem to have been actually identified with the Messiah.

III. Alexandrian Synthesis.

We have seen that according to Greek thought the Logos was conceived as a rational principle or impersonal energy by means of which the world was fashioned and ordered, while according to Hebrew thought the Logos was regarded rather as a mediating agent or personal organ of the Divine Being. The Hellenistic doctrine, in other words, was chiefly a doctrine of the Logos as Reason; the Jewish, a doctrine of the Logos as Word.


In the philosophy of Alexandria, of which Philo was an illustrious exponent, the two phases were combined, and Hellenistic speculation was united with Hebrew tradition for the purpose of showing that the Old Testament taught the true philosophy and embodied all that was highest in Greek reflection. In Philo the two streams meet and flow henceforth in a common bed. The all-pervading Energy of Heraclitus, the archetypal Ideas of Plato, the purposive Reason of Aristotle, the immanent Order of the Stoics are taken up and fused with the Jewish conception of Yahweh who, while transcending all finite existences, is revealed through His intermediatory Word. As the result of this Philonic synthesis, an entirely new idea of God is formulated. While Philo admits the eternity of matter, he rejects the Greek view that the world is eternal, since it denies the creative activity and providence of God. At the same time he separates Divine energy from its manifestations in the world, and is therefore compelled to connect the one with the other by the interposition of subordinate Powers. These Divine forces are the embodiment of the ideai, of Plato and the aggeloi, of the Old Testament. The double meaning of Logos--thought and speech--is made use of by Philo to explain the relation subsisting between the ideal world existing only in the mind of God and the sensible universe which is its visible embodiment. He distinguishes, therefore, between the Logos inherent in God (logos endiathetos), corresponding to reason in man, and the Logos which emanates from God (logos prophorikos), corresponding to the spoken Word as the revelation of thought. Though in His inner essence God is incomprehensible by any but Himself, He has created the intelligible cosmos by His self-activity. The Word is therefore in Philo the rational order manifested in the visible world.

Some special features of the Philonic Logos may be noted:

(1) It is distinguished from God as the instrument from the Cause.

(2) As instrument by which God makes the world, it is in its nature intermediate between God and man.

(3) As the expressed thought of God and the rational principle of the visible world, the Logos is "the Eldest or Firstborn Son of God." It is the "bond" (desmos) holding together all things (De Mundi, i.592), the law which determines the order of the universe and guides the destinies of men and nations (same place) . Sometimes Philo calls it the "Man of God": or the "Heavenly man," the immortal father of all noble men; sometimes he calls it "the Second God," "the Image of God."

(4) From this it follows that the Logos must be the Mediator between God and man, the "Intercessor" (hiketes) or "High Priest," who is the ambassador from heaven and interprets God to man. Philo almost exhausts the vocabulary of Hebrew metaphor in describing the Logos. It is "manna," "bread from heaven," "the living stream," the "sword" of Paradise, the guiding "cloud," the "rock" in the wilderness.

These various expressions, closely resembling the New Testament descriptions of Christ, lead us to ask: Is Philo’s Logos a personal being or a pure abstraction? Philo himself seems to waver in his answer, and the Greek and the Jew in him are hopelessly at issue. That he personifies the Logos is implied in the figures he uses; but to maintain its personality would have been inconsistent with Philo’s whole view of God and the world. His Jewish faith inclines him to speak of the Logos as personal, while his Greek culture disposes him to an impersonal interpretation. Confronted with this alternative, the Alexandrian wavers in indecision. After all has been said, his Logos really resolves itself into a group of Divine ideas, and is conceived, not as a distinct person, but as the thought of God which is expressed in the rational order of the visible universe.

In the speculations of Philo, whose thought is so frequently couched in Biblical language, we have the gropings of a sincere mind after a truth which was disclosed in its fullness only by the revelation of Pentecost. In Philo, Greek philosophy, as has been said, "stood almost at the door of the Christian church." But if the Alexandrian thinker could not create the Christian doctrine, he unconsciously prepared the soil for its acceptance. In this sense his Logos-doctrine has a real value in the evolution of Christian thought. Philo was not, indeed, the master of the apostles, but even if he did nothing more than call forth their antagonism, he helped indirectly to determine the doctrine of Christendom.

IV. Christian Realization.

We pass now to consider the import of the term in the New Testament. Here it signifies usually "utterance," "speech" or "narrative." In reference to God it is used sometimes for a special utterance, or for revelation in general, and even for the medium of revelation--Holy Scripture. In the prologue of the Fourth Gospel it is identified with the personal Christ; and it is this employment of the term in the light of its past history which creates the interest of the problem of the New Testament doctrine.

1. Pauline Doctrine:

The author of the Fourth Gospel is not, however, the first New Testament writer who represents Jesus as the Logos. Though Paul does not actually use the word in this connection, he has anticipated the Johannine conception. Christ is represented by Paul as before His advent living a life with God in heaven (Ga 4:4; Ro 10:6). He is conceived as one in whose image earthly beings, and especially men, were made (1Co 11:7; 15:45-49); and even as participating in the creation (1Co 8:6). In virtue of His distinct being He is called God’s "own Son" (Ro 8:32).

Whether Paul was actually conversant with the writings of Philo is disputed (compare Pfleider, Urchristentum), but already when he wrote to the Colossians and Ephesians the influence of Alexandrian speculation was being felt in the church. Incipient Gnosticism, which was an attempt to correlate Christianity with the order of the universe as a whole, was current. Most noticeable are the pointed allusions to Gnostic watchwords in Eph 3:19 ("fullness of God") and in Col 2:3 ("Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden"), where Paul shows that everything sought for in the doctrine of the Pleroma is really given in Christ. The chief object of these epistles is to assert the unique dignity and absolute power of the Person of Christ. He is not merely one of the Eons which make up the Pleroma, as Gnostic teachers affirm, but a real and personal Being in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells. He is not merely an inferior workman creating glory for a higher Master. He creates for Himself. He is the end as well as the source of all created. things (Col 1:15-20). Though throughout this epistle the word "Logos" is never introduced, it is plain that the eikon, of Paul is equivalent in rank and function to the Logos of John. Each exists prior to creation, each is equal to God, shares His life and cooperates in His work.

2. Doctrine in Hebrews:

In the Epistle to the Hebrews we have an equally explicit, if not fuller, declaration of the eternal Deity of Christ. Whatever may be said of Paul there can be little doubt that the author of He was familiar with the Philonic writings. Who this writer was we do not know; but his Philonism suggests that he may have been an Alexandrian Jew, possibly even a disciple of Philo. In language seemingly adapted from that source ("Son of God," "Firstborn," "above angels," "Image of God," "Agent in Creation," "Mediator," "Great High Priest" "Melchizedek") the author of He sneaks of Christ as a reflection of the majesty and imprint of the nature of God, just as in a seal the impression resembles the stamp. The dignity of His title indicates His essential rank. He is expressly dressed as God; and the expression "the effulgence of his glory" (the Revised Version (British and American) apaugasma) implies that He is one with God (Heb 1:3). By Him the worlds have been made, and all things are upheld by the fiat of His word (Heb 1:3). In the name He bears, in the honors ascribed to Him, in His superiority to angels, in His relationship as Creator both to heaven and earth (Heb 1:10), we recognize (in language which in the letter of it strongly reminds us of Philo, yet in its spirit is so different) the description of one who though clothed with human nature is no mere subordinate being, but the possessor of all Divine prerogatives and the sharer of the very nature of God Himself.

3. Doctrine in the Fourth Gospel:

In the Fourth Gospel the teaching of Paul and the author of He finds its completest expression. "The letter to the He stands in a sense half-way between Pauline and Johannine teaching" (Weizsacker, Apostolic Age, V, 11). It is, however, too much to say that these three writers represent the successive stages of single line of development. While all agree in emphasizing the fact of Christ’s Divine personality and eternal being, Paul represents rather the religious interest, the Epistle to the Hebrews the philosophical. In the Johannine Christology the two elements are united.

In discussing the Johannine doctrine of the Logos we shall Speak first of its content and secondly of its terminology.

(1) Content of Doctrine.

The evangelist uses "Logos" 6 times as a designation of the Divine preexistent person of Christ (Joh 1:1,14; 1; Joh 1:1; Re 19:13), but he never puts it into the mouth of Christ. The idea which John sought to convey by this term was not essentially different from the conception of Christ as presented by Paul. But the use of the word gave a precision and emphasis to the being of Christ which the writer must have felt was especially needed by the class of readers for whom his Gospel was intended. The Logos with whom the Fourth Gospel starts is a Person. Readers of the Synoptics had long been familiar with the term "Word of God" as equivalent to the Gospel; but the essential purport of John’s Word is Jesus Himself, His Person. We have here an essential change of meaning. The two applications are indeed connected; but the conception of the perfect revelation of God in the Gospel passes into that of the perfect revelation of the Divine nature in general (compare Weizsacker, Apostolic Age, V, ii, 320).

In the prologue (which, however, must not be regarded as independent of, or having no integral connection with, the rest of the book) there is stated: (a) the relation of the Logos to God; and (b) the relation of the Logos to the world.

(a) Relation of Logos to God:

Here the author makes three distinct affirmations:

(i) "In the beginning was the Word."

The evangelist carries back his history of our Lord to a point prior to all temporal things. Nothing is said of the origin of the world. As in Ge 1:1, so here there is only implied that the Logos was existent when the world began to be. When as yet nothing was, the Logos was. Though the eternal preexistence of the Word is not actually stated, it is implied.

(ii) "The Word was with God."

Here His personal existence is more specifically defined. He stands distinct from, yet in eternal fellowship with, God. The preposition pros (bei, Luther) expresses beyond the fact of coexistence that of perpetual intercommunion. John would guard against the idea of mere self-contemplation on the one hand, and entire independence on the other. It is union, not fusion.

(iii) "The Word was God."

He is not merely related eternally, but actually identical in essence with God. The notion of inferiority is emphatically excluded and the true Deity of the Word affirmed. In these three propositions we ascend from His eternal existence to His distinct personality and thence to His substantial Godhead. All that God is the Logos is. Identity, difference, communion are the three phases of the Divine relationship.

(b) Relation of Logos to the World:

The Logos is word as well as thought, and therefore there is suggested the further idea of communicativeness. Of this self-communication the evangelist mentions two phases--creation and revelation. The Word unveils Himself through the mediation of objects of sense and also manifests Himself directly. Hence, in this section of the prologue (Joh 1:3-5) a threefold division also occurs.

(i) He is the Creator of the visible universe. "All things were made through him"--a phrase which describes the Logos as the organ of the entire creative activity of God and excludes the idea favored by Plato and Philo that God was only the architect who molded into cosmos previously existing matter. The term egeneto ("becomes," werden), implies the successive evolution of the world, a statement not inconsistent with the modern theory of development.

(ii) The Logos is also the source of the intellectual, moral and spiritual life of man. "In him was life; and the life was the light of men." He is the light as well as the life--the fountain of all the manifold forms of being and thought in and by whom all created things subsist, and from whom all derive illumination (compare 1 Joh 1:1-3; also Col 1:17). But inasmuch as the higher phases of intelligent life involve freedom, the Divine Light, though perfect and undiminished in itself, was not comprehended by a world which chose darkness rather than light (Joh 1:5,11).

(iii) The climax of Divine revelation is expressed in the statement, The Word became flesh," which implies on the one hand the reality of Christ’s humanity, and, on the other, the voluntariness of His incarnation, but excludes the notion that in becoming man the Logos ceased to be God. Though clothed in flesh, the Logos continues to be the self-manifesting God, and retains, even in human form, the character of the Eternal One. In this third phase is embodied the highest manifestation of the Godhead. In physical creation the power of God is revealed. In the bestowal of light to mankind His wisdom is chiefly manifested. But in the third especially is His love unveiled. All the perfections of the Deity are focused and made visible in Christ--the "glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (Joh 1:14).

Thus the Word reveals the Divine essence. The incarnation makes the life, the light and the love which are eternally present in God manifest to men. As they meet in God, so they meet in Christ. This is the glory which the disciples beheld; the truth to which the Baptist bore witness (Joh 1:7); the fullness whereof His apostles received (Joh 1:16); the entire body of grace and truth by which the Word gives to men the power to become the sons of God.

There is implied throughout that the Word is the Son. Each of these expressions taken separately have led and may lead to error. But combined they correct possible misuse. On the one hand, their union protects us from considering the Logos as a mere abstract impersonal quality; and, on the other, saves us from imparting to the Son a lower state or more recent origin than the Father. Each term supplements and protects the other. Taken together they present Christ before His incarnation as at once personally distinct from, yet equal with, the Father--as the eternal life which was with God and was manifested to us.

(2) Origin of Terminology.

We have now to ask whence the author of the Fourth Gospel derived the phraseology employed to set forth his Christology. It will be well, however, to distinguish between the source of the doctrine itself and the source of the language. For it is possible that Alexandrian philosophy might have suggested the linguistic medium, while the doctrine itself had another origin. Writers like Reuss, Keim, Holtzmann, Weizsacker, Schmiedel, etc., who contend for the Alexandrian derivation of the prologue, are apt to overlook two considerations regarding the Johannine doctrine:

(1) There is no essential difference between the teaching of John and that of the other apostolic writers; and even when the word "Logos" is not used, as in Paul’s case, the view of Christ’s person is virtually that which we find in the Fourth Gospel.

(2) The writer himself affirms that his knowledge of Christ was not borrowed from others, but was derived from personal fellowship with Jesus Himself. "We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten." This is John’s summary and witness upon which he proceeds to base the vivid memories of Jesus which follow. The Johannine doctrine is not to be regarded merely as a philosophical account of the nature of God and His creation of the world, but rather as the statement of a belief which already existed in the Christian church and which received fresh testimony and assurance from the evangelist’s own personal experience.

But the question may still be asked: Even if it was no novel doctrine which John declared, what led him to adopt the language of the Logos, a word which had not been employed in this connection by previous Christian writers, but which was prevalent in the philosophical vocabulary of the age? It would be inconceivable that the apostle lighted upon this word by chance or that he selected it without any previous knowledge of its history and value. It may be assumed that when he speaks of the "Word" in relation to God and the world, he employs a mode of speech which was already familiar to those for whom he wrote and of whose general import he himself was well aware.

The truth that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ was borne in upon John. The problem which confronted him was how he could make that truth real to his contemporaries. This he sought to do by using the language of the highest religious thought of his day.

We have seen that the term "Logos" had undergone a twofold and to some extent parallel evolution. On the one hand, it had a Hebrew and, on the other, a Hellenic history. In which direction are we to look for the immediate source of the Johannine terminology?

(a) Hebrew Source:

At the same time the Hebrew cast of thought of the Johannine Gospel and its affinities with Jewish rather than Hellenic modes of expression can hardly be gainsaid. Though John’s knowledge of and sympathy with Palestinian religion may not actually account for his use of the term "Logos," it may have largely colored and directed his special application of it. For, as Neander observes, that name may have been put forward at Ephesus in order to lead those Jews, who were busying themselves with speculations on the Logos as the center of all theophanies, to recognize in Christ the Supreme Revelation of God and the fulfillment of their Messianic hopes.

(b) Hellenic Source:

Other writers trace the Johannine ideas and terms to Hellenic philosophy and particularly to Alexandrian influence as represented in Philo. No one can compare the Fourth Gospel with the writings of Philo without noting a remarkable similarity in diction, especially in the use of the word "Logos". It would be hazardous, however, on this ground alone to impute conscious borrowing to the evangelist. It is more probable that both the Alexandrian thinker and the New Testament writer were subject to common influences of thought and expression. Hellenism largely colors the views and diction of the early church. Paul takes over many words from Greek philosophy. "There is not a single New Testament writing," says Harnack (Dogmen-Geschichte, I, 47, note), "which does not betray the influence of the mode of thought and general culture which resulted from the Hellenizing of the East." But, while that is true, it must not be forgotten, as Harnack himself points out, "that while the writers of the New Testament breathe an atmosphere created by Greek culture, the religious ideas in which they live and move come to them from the Old Testament."

It is hardly probable that John was directly acquainted with the writings of Philo. But it is more than likely that he was cognizant of the general tenor of his teaching and may have discovered in the language which had floated over from Alexandria to Ephesus a suitable vehicle for the utterance of his own beliefs, especially welcome and intelligible to those who were familiar with Alexandrian modes of thought.

But whatever superficial resemblances there may be between Philo and John (and they are not few or vague), it must be at once evident that the whole spirit and view of life is fundamentally different. So far from the apostle being a disciple of the Alexandrian or a borrower of his ideas, it would be more correct to say that there is clearly a conscious rejection of the Philonic conception, and that the Logos of John is a deliberate protest against what he must have regarded as the inadequate and misleading philosophy of Greece.

(c) Contrast between Philo and John:

The contrast between the two writers is much more striking than the resemblance. The distinction is not due merely to the acceptance by the Christian writer of Jesus as the Word, but extends to the whole conception of God and His relation to the world which has made Christianity a new power among men. The Logos of Philo is metaphysical, that of John, religious. Philo moves entirely in the region of abstract thought, his idea of God is pure being; John’s thought is concrete and active, moving in a region of life and history. Philo’s Logos is intermediate, the instrument which God employs in fashioning the world; John’s Logos is not subsidiary but is Himself God, and as such is not a mere instrument, but the prime Agent in creation. According to Philo the Deity is conceived as an architect who forms the world out of already existent matter. According to John the Logos is absolute Creator of all that is, the Source of all being, life and intelligence. In Philo the Logos hovers between personality and impersonality, and if it is sometimes personified it can hardly be said to have the value of an actual person; in John the personality of the Logos is affirmed from the first and it is of the very essence of his doctrine, the ground of His entire creative energy. The idea of an incarnation is alien to the thought of Philo and impossible in his scheme of the universe; the "Word that has become flesh" is the pivot and crown of Johannine teaching. Philo affirms the absolute incomprehensibility of God; but it is the prime object of the evangelist to declare that God is revealed in Christ and that the Logos is the unveiling through the flesh of man of the self-manifesting Deity. Notwithstanding the personal epithets employed by Philo, his Logos remains a pure abstraction or attribute of God, and it is never brought into relation with human history. John’s Logos, on the other hand, is instinct with life and energy from the beginning, and it is the very heart of his Gospel to declare as the very center of life and history the great historical event of the incarnation which is to recreate the world and reunite God and man.

From whatever point of view we compare them, we find that Philo and John, while using the same language, give an entirely different value to it. The essential purport of the Johannine Logos is Jesus Christ. The adoption of the term involves its complete transformation. It is baptized with a new spirit and henceforth stands for a new conception. From whatsoever source it was originally derived--from Hebrew tradition or Hellenic speculation--on Christian soil it is a new product. It is neither Greek nor Jewish, it is Christian. The philosophical abstraction has become a religious conception. Hellenism and Hebrewism have been taken up and fused into a higher unity, and Christ as the embodiment of the Logos has become the creative power and the world-wide possession of mankind.

The most probable view is that Philo and John found the same term current in Jewish and Gentilecircles and used it to set forth their respective ideas; Philo, following his predilections for Greek philosophy, to give a Hellenic complexion to his theory of the relation of Divine Reason to the universe; John, true to ,his Hebrew instincts, seeing in the Logos the climax of that revelation of God to man of which the earlier Jewish theophanies were but partial expressions.

There is nothing improbable in the surmise that the teaching of Philo gave a fresh impulse to the study of the Logos as Divine Reason which was already shadowed forth in the Biblical doctrine of Wisdom (Westcott). Nor need we take offense that such an important idea should have come to the Biblical author from an extra-Biblical writer (compare Schmiedel, Johannine Writings), remembering only that the author of the Johannine Gospel was no mechanical borrower, but an entirely independent and original thinker who gave to the Logos and the ideas associated with it a wholly-new worth and interpretation. Thus, as has been said, the treasures of Greece were made contributory to the full unfolding of the Gospel.

V. Patristic Development.

The Johannine Logos became the fruitful source of much speculation in Gnostic circles and among the early Fathers regarding the nature of Christ. The positive truth presented by the Fourth Gospel was once more broken up, and the various elements of which it was the synthesis became the seeds of a number of partial and one-sided theories respecting the relation of the Father and the Son. The influence of Greek ideas, which had already begun in the Apostolic Age, became more pronounced and largely shaped the current of ante-Nicene theology (see Hatch, Hibbert Lectures).

Gnosticism in particular was an attempt to reconcile Christianity with philosophy; but in Gnostic systems the term "Logos" is only sparingly employed. According to Basilides the "Logos" was an emanation from the nous as personified Wisdom, which again was directly derived from the Father. Valentinus, in whose teaching Gnosticism culminated, taught that Wisdom was the last of a series of Eons which emanated from the Primal Being, and the Logos was an emanation of the first two principles which issued from God--Reason, Faith. Justin Martyr, the first of the sub-apostolic Fathers, sought to unite the Scriptural idea of the Logos as Word with the Hellenic idea of Reason. According to him God produced in His own nature a rational power which was His agent in creation and took the form in history of the Divine Man. Christ is the organ of all revelations, and as the logos spermatikos, He sows the seeds of virtue and truth among the heathen. All that is true and beautiful in the pagan world is to be traced to the activity of the Logos before His incarnation. Tatian and Theophilus taught essentially the same doctrine; though in Tatian there is a marked leaning toward Gnosticism, and consequently a tendency to separate the ideal from the historical Christ. Athenagoras, who ascribes to the Logos the creation of all things, regarding it in the double sense of the Reason of God and the creative energy of the world, has a firm grasp of the Biblical doctrine, which was still more clearly expressed by Irenaeus, who held that the Son was the essential Word, eternally begotten of the Father and at once the interpreter of God and the Creator of the world.

The Alexandrian school was shaped by the threefold influence of Plato, Philo and the Johannine Gospel. Clement of Alexandria views the Son as the Logos of the Father, the Fountain of all intelligence, the Revealer of the Divine Being and the Creator and Illuminator of mankind. He repudiates the idea of the inferiority of the Son, and regards the Logos not as the spoken but as the creative word. Origen seeks to reconcile the two ideas of the eternity and the subordination of the Logos, and is in this sense a mediator between the Arian and more orthodox parties and was appealed to by both. According to him the Son is equal in substance with the Father, but there is a difference in essence. While the Father is "the God" (ho theos) and "God Himself" (autotheos), the Logos is "a second God" (deuteros theos). In the Nicene Age, under the shaping influence of the powerful mind of Athanasius, and, to a lesser degree, of Basil and the two Gregories, the Logos-doctrine attained its final form in the triumphant statement of the Nicene Creed which declared the essential unity, but, at the same time, the personal distinction of the Father and Son. The Council of Nicea practically gathered up the divergent views of the past and established the teaching of the Fourth Gospel as the doctrine of the church.


(1) On Greek Logos:

Schleiermacher, Herakleitos der Dunkle; Histories of Philosophy, Zeller, Ueberweg, Hitter; Heinze, Die Lehre yore Logos in der Greek Phil. (1872); Aall, Gesch. d. Logosidee in d. Greek Phil. (1896).

(2) On Jewish Doctrine:

Oehler, O T Theol. (1873); Schurer, Lehrbuch d. New Testament Zeitgesch; Schultz, Old Testament Theol.

(3) On Alexandrian Doctrine:

Gfrorer, Philo u. die alex. Theosophie (1831); Dahne, Gesch. Darstell. der jud-alex. Religions-Philosophic (1843); Keferstein, Philos Lehre yon den gottlichen Mittelwesen (1846); Dorner, Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre v. d. Person Christi; Siegfried, Philo v. Alex. (1875); Drummond, Philo Judaeus (1888); Reville, La doctrine du Logos; Huber, Die Philosophic der Kirchenvater; Grossmann, Questiones Philoneae (1841); Watson, Philos. Basis of Religion (1907).

(4) On Johannine Gospel:

Relative comma. of Meyer, Godet, Westcote, Luthardt, E. Scott (1907); Liddon, Divinity of our Lord ("Bampton Lectures," 1866); Watkins, Modern Criticism on the Fourth Gospel ("Bampton Lectures," 1890); Gloag, Introduction to Johannine Writing, (1891); Stevens, Johannine Theol. (1894); Drummond, Gospel of John; Bertling, Der Johan. Logos (1907); Schmiedel, The Johannine Writings (1908); Weizsacker, Apostolic Age, V, ii; Beyschlag and Weiss, Biblical Theol. of New Testament; Drummond, Via, Veritas, Vita (1894); Hatch, Greek Ideas and Usages, Their Influence upon the Christian Church (Hibbert Lectures, 1888).

(5) Patristic Period:

Harnack, Dogmen-Gesch.; Baur, Kirchen-Gesch.; Dorner, System d. chr. Glaubenslehre; Loofs, Leitfaden fur seine Vorlesungen uber Dogmengeschichte; Atzbergen, Die Logoslehre d. heiligen Athanasius (1880).

B.D. Alexander